The growing disconnect between parents and children

Published 24.11.2018 00:00
Updated 24.11.2018 00:01

While it is clear that new inventions in the field of audio-visual technologies are presenting new challenges for parents in terms of their role in raising their children, it is also clear that the role and responsibilities of parents, in other words the significance of appropriate parenting, has never been as crucial as now in the wake of digital technologies and the way they have absorbed children, adults and families.

In order to fulfill this role appropriately in light of children's access to various provisions of the internet – which is increasingly happening at much younger ages – and the diversifying content of the issues, not only do parental digital literacy skills become more crucial in empowering and protecting children, but also the significance of parental modelling behavior and the quality of parent-child interactions and relationships. In other words, as the number of gratifying and enticing stimulants increase rapidly, the significance of providing children with appropriate parental presence, responsiveness, guidance, warmth and attention is becoming ever more significant. The issue has become even more complex because of the growing digital dependency that is not only significantly affecting children and young people but is equally affecting parents.

Appropriate parental presence for and connection with children is crucial in the early years of children. As emphasized by attachment theory, the nature of early parenting, in other words the quality of parental attention, warmth and responsiveness, has a significant impact on children's emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social development. Unfortunately, not every child has the opportunity to grow up with the parental presence needed for children's healthy development due to the fact that the majority of parents have to return to work soon after their child's birth; as such, in today's modern world there is an already significantly reduced parental presence in children's lives at very young ages. This lack of presence is exacerbated not only by increasing child dependence on digital devices but also parental absorption in digital technologies, especially smartphones, leading to a further disconnect between children and their parents. The fact that almost every individual – old and young – has a mobile digital device nowadays has led to further individualized – in many cases disconnected – lifestyles within even the same home, causing a paradox of "connection/disconnection."

As outlined in social learning theory, parents have significant influence on their children's behavior, and children are largely considered to be products of the sort of parenting they receive. A concern is that the level of parental absorption in digital devices is further limiting the parental presence, attention and responsiveness that their children receive, which is crucial for their cognitive, lingual, social and emotional development. In an age where parental supervision and guidance is so important, children are unfortunately not getting this not only because they are left to their own devices to entertain themselves but also because parents love to be left to their intense relationship with their mobile devices, consequently struggling to be present enough to appropriately respond to their children's attention-seeking behavior. In line with all this, there is not only a need for parental insight into the impact of how their digital use is affecting their children's relationship with digital devices but also what the growing disconnect their own digital device use may be causing between them and their children.

* Ph.D. candidate in media studies at Westminster University

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